You’ll Never Believe Why Superman’s Nemesis Mineral, Kryptonite, Was Created

For 80 years, fans have been following the adventures of Superman. The most die-hard fans have followed him across several different mediums. Superman has appeared in print, on the big and small screens, and even on the radio. All four mediums follow the same basic rules, and each one has included kryptonite in some form. Kryptonite, an alien mineral, actually came into existence for a rather mundane reason, believe it or not.

What is kryptonite?

An alien mineral from the planet Krypton, Kryptonite is Superman’s one true weakness. While he usually processes super-human strength, the substance weakens the superhero, rendering him pretty much useless. Kryptonite does not hurt human beings, in most cases.

Superman, played by American actor Christopher Reeve (1952 - 2004), holds a green crystal at the Fortress of Solitude, in a promotional still from 'Superman' (1978)
Christopher Reeve as Superman | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

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Traditional green kryptonite isn’t the only problem for Superman, though. Multiple forms of the substance exist, most of which have adverse effects on Superman’s powers. Red-Green kryptonite, for example, causes a mutation that adds a third eye to Superman. Gold kryptonite is rumored to remove all of Superman’s powers permanently.

Kryptonite was introduced in 1943

Kryptonite was first introduced during Adventures of Superman, a radio show that premiered in 1940. Bud Collyer voiced Superman between 1940 and 1950, but the grueling schedule was too much for any one voice actor to deal with. DC Comics notes that the recording of episodes was a daily occurrence, end episodes could take hours to produce. Collyer’s voice became so well known on the program, that it would have been impossible for programming directors to sub in another voice actor so he could have a break.

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Instead, writers created an alien mineral that would incapacitate the superhero. Without a voiced part in particular episodes, due to Kryptonite, Collyer could get a several-days long break. In 1943, kryptonite was introduced

Six years later, Kryptonite was written into the comics

While kryptonite was a clever plot device to give Collyer some much-needed downtime, it didn’t immediately win over comic book writers. In fact, it took several more years for the mineral to find its way onto the colored pages of a comic book. A version of kryptonite was introduced in the comics in 1949.

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The bright green rock that fans have come to know was not introduced until later, though. Green kryptonite was introduced in 1951, more than eight years after radio producers introduced the mineral. Over the years, several more forms of kryptonite have been added.

The most recent version of kryptonite was added in 2018 when platinum kryptonite was introduced. The platinum form of the mineral transfers the strength of Superman to non-Kryptonians, according to Screen Rant. The platinum version of the mineral does not adversely affect Superman.